Fresh peas are the ultimate sign of spring, from sweet English peas to crisp sugar snaps. They all cook in a flash, lending their bright color and delicate flavor to a wide range of dishes. Read on for our best tips for choosing, storing and working with peas, plus some of our favorite ways to use them in the kitchen.
Look for: Pods of English peas should be bright green, and they will feel heavy in your hand. Snow peas should be light green and crisp, while sugar snaps are darker, but both should feel crisp and snap when broken. Eat English peas the same day you buy them for the best flavor (their sugars convert quickly to starch). If you do need to store them, keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Snow peas and sugar snaps can be stored the same way — if they start to wilt, place them in cold water for 10 to 15 minutes to recrisp.
Prep tips: Snow and sugar snap peas are both eaten whole, but English peas need to be shelled before use. Shell them right before cooking so they don’t dry out. All peas — shelled or whole — should be cooked for a just a few minutes in simmering water so they don’t become soggy.
Uses: Because of their starchiness, English peas are delicious pureed into creamy soups or spreads. They also add their grassy flavor and bright color to risottos, pastas and pilafs. Steam them and sprinkle with fresh herbs, such as mint or parsley, for an easy side dish. Snow and sugar snap peas can be eaten raw as crudites, but they’re also great in stir-fries, pairing well with Asian flavors.
Variations: Pea shoots are the delicate leaves and tendrils that grow from the vines of the pea plant. They are tender and sweet, delicious when eaten raw or sauteed. Try them in stir-fries, with seafood, on top of pizzas, and tossed into salads; you can also use them to garnish spring dishes.
Stir-Fried Snow Peas, Sugar Snaps & Shiitakes: Saute sliced stemmed shiitake mushrooms in vegetable oil until browned; transfer to bowl. Warm more vegetable oil with sesame oil. Add snow peas and sugar snaps; stir-fry until crisp-tender. Add mushrooms, grated ginger, minced garlic, sesame seeds, sliced green onions, salt and pepper; cook 1 minute.
Pea Soup with Mint: Saute diced onion in olive oil until translucent. Add minced garlic; cook 1 minute. Add English peas, chicken stock, salt and pepper; simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Add minced mint and cream. Puree in a blender.
Snap Pea Salad with Radishes & Feta: Whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest, minced shallot, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss julienned snap peas, thinly sliced radishes and julienned basil with vinaigrette. Sprinkle with crumbled feta.
Farro Salad with Peas: Cook farro in boiling salted water until tender; let cool. Whisk together sherry vinegar, minced garlic, walnut oil, salt and pepper. Toss farro, blanched English peas, parsley leaves and crumbled ricotta salata with viniagrette.
Pasta with Peas, Pancetta & Mint: Cook pancetta in olive oil; transfer to a bowl. Add sliced shallots and English peas to pan; cook until tender. Add cooked and drained campanelle, pancetta and grated Parmesan; toss to combine. Stir in julienned mint, salt and pepper.
Frittata with Peas, Ricotta & Herbs: Saute diced onion in olive oil. Add minced garlic and English peas; cook until tender. Whisk eggs, minced tarragon and chives, salt and pepper. Add to pan; dollop ricotta on top. Cook until eggs just start to set. Transfer to 400°F oven; cook until set. Sprinkle with minced chives.